Sunday, November 23, 2008

College Humor

B.J. Novak (a/k/a Ryan Howard a/k/a "The Temp") was in town on Friday doing stand-up so we went and checked it out. The show was at Providence College so the audience was at least 95% college students. I still can't get over how young college students are these days, but it's nice to know that they enjoy the humor of The Office even if they haven't entered the workaday world yet.

We hit YouTube before the show to look for some examples of Novak's stand-up routine to decide if it was any good. As usual, YouTube delivered. Here's a couple of clips that we watched - both of which were included in his show on Friday.

Novak is pretty funny on stage. His humor is mostly observational and pretty nerdy, so it's right up my alley. He did bits about how pandas are endangered due to their aversion to mating(that's not the whole story, but it certainly doesn't help) and how everyone who appears in porn films is considered a porn "star". While I may never have technically told any jokes based on those ideas, I've certainly thought about it before, so we definitely have similar senses of humor.

After the show, he did a short Q&A session. The Office spoiler alert: Kevin is going to shoot up the office (with sexy results) before turning the gun on himself in the season finale. Just kidding - no juicy Office gossip was revealed. Although, he didn't say anything about Kevin not shooting up the office in the season finale...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Are You My Type?

I heard about Typealyzer today, a service that takes a blog URL, analyzes the content, and spits out a Myers-Briggs score. It's been a while since I've taken a Myers-Briggs assessment, so I don't remember exactly how I scored last time and I suppose it's possible that I have changed since then, but I'm skeptical of the ESTP score that Typealyzer assigned to this blog. I'm pretty sure that I was either an INTJ or an INTP the last time I took the test. According to Typealyzer, I am a "doer", who is active and playful, often full of energy; talking and joking. I may also be impulsive and have problems sitting still. Sounds just like me, right? This whole thing sounds kind of silly, but any business model that is based on converting the vanity of bloggers into profits probably has a halfway decent chance of being successful. Perhaps my blog is not active enough for it to deliver an accurate score, but I'm not completely sold on Typealyzer yet.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chocolate News

Porter is my favorite beer variety, but it's not something I like to drink in warm weather. It's a bit too hearty for a day at the beach. When the leaves start to fall and days get shorter, I start getting in the mood for a nice porter, but I couldn't find any decent porter on my last trip to the liquor store. The only thing they had was Sam Adams Honey Porter, which isn't my favorite. I would up picking up some Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout. It was a bit pricey ($10 for a 6 pack), but when you consider that it has two and a half times as much alcohol by volume as Bud Light (10.6% vs. 4.2%), it's actually a pretty good deal if all you're going for is maximum amount of buzz per dollar. If you're more worried about taste, it's arguably an ever better value. It's incredibly rich, as you might imagine, but it's still very smooth and the high alcohol content is not overwhelming.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Trading Spaces

Trader Joe's recently opened their first store in the state of Rhode Island. We checked it out shortly after the grand opening and I picked up a loaf of their three seed and honey bread, and it is really good. It's the first bread that I can ever remember eating that has fennel seeds on it (the other two seeds are poppy and sesame). I think the fennel works really well, but I may not be the most objective observer, since I basically love fennel in anything.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Demographic Novel

After the 2004 election, there was a lot of talk about how Bush won 97 of the 100 fastest growing counties in America and how the Republican's fecundity spelled doom for the Democrat's chances in national elections. After last night's election, there's a lot of talk about how the Republican's lost a lot of the youth vote and the college-educated vote and how this spells doom for the Republicans. While I'm fascinated by demographic trends, I try not to put too much stock into them. Pundits mine the demographic data after every election to explain why the winning candidate won the election, then extrapolate it into the future, forgetting how fickle the American electorate tends to be.

Now that I've railed against this practice, I'm going to engage in it. Returning to the exit poll results, the 66% of the 18-29 year old vote that Obama captured is the highest percentage any candidate has captured in any age bracket over the past eight elections. Since I'm just north of the 18-29 age bracket, I find the difference between my age bracket, who supported Obama 53% of the time, and the 18-29 bracket really interesting. I can think of a few probable reasons for the youth's embrace of Obama. They were probably excited by the "newness" of Obama and the Obama campaign also probably did a good job at reaching out to the youth vote. George W. Bush's unpopularity probably gave Obama a big boost in their eyes since for most of the people in the 18-29 group, the only presidential administration of their adult lives has been Bush's. The thing that I think really separates the under 30s from the 30+s is Ronald Reagan. I doubt that very many people under the age of 30 remember much of anything about the Reagan years. The youngest voters in this year's election would have been born after Reagan left office and the oldest under 30 voters would have been just turning 10 when Reagan rode off into the sunset. The Republican party can continue to hold up Reagan as one of their standard bearers, (though I question whether this is true anymore), but it's unlikely to inspire anyone who was born after 1980.

While demographics are hardly destiny, that doesn't mean that Obama's victory isn't indicative of any sociopolitical change. I think it's important to remember that it was only 40 years ago that George Wallace ran for President as a third-party candidate on a segregationist platform and won 13.5 % of the popular vote (8.6% of the electoral college with 5 states: AR, LA, AL, MS, and GA). Wallace won 31% of North Carolina's popular vote in 1968; 40 years later, Obama won 49.67% of the popular vote, and may have won the state, though at the moment, it's still too close to call.

We should probably spend a little less time trying to figure out if America is a center-right country or a center-left country or whether or not the Republicans can appeal to voters outside of rural areas and the states of the old Confederacy. These kinds of questions assume that all voters are ideologically consistent within their chosen (or given) political caste when in fact most are anything but. The changes in America's politics are driven by the changes in American society. When politics get too far ahead of or behind society, political realignments happen. The changes that have happened in American society that made it possible to elect a black man as president have been bubbling up for a long time and yesterday, American politics finally caught up.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

X-Men 4: Halloween

Happy belated Halloween, from the X-Men

I wound up on pumpkin carving detail this year. I think it was one of my better carvings. After Michelle did such a good job last year, I had to step up my game.

Perhaps even more impressive than the carving is this photo that I snapped - a hand-held 1 second exposure with no noticeable blur.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Did you hear the one about the sheep beauty pageant held for the men of Saudi Arabia?

Working Studs

I'll always remember my introduction to the works of the late Studs Terkel, who passed away yesterday at the age of 96. I was in sixth grade and browsing the stacks at my middle school library when I noticed a book called "Working Studs". Needless to say, I was surprised to see such a subversive work of non-fiction at a middle school library until I took a second look and discovered that it was the classic "Working" by Studs Terkel. This remembrance of Terkel, which aired on NPR yesterday, includes Terkel recounting a time that one of Jerry Falwell's minions called a library in Georgia to complain about a pornographic book called "Working Studs" by someone named Terkel. I guess I had the potential to be a great moralizing ignoramus from a young age. If only someone would have recognized that and nurtured me down that path.

I've never read "Working" (or "Working Studs", for that matter), though I did read this book during a lapse in employment several years ago. It's written in the same style as Working and bills itself as something of a modern day remake of the classic. I gave Michelle a copy of "Working" for Christmas last year, so I'm sure I'll get around to reading it once the statute of limitations on reclaiming a gift that you gave someone else expires and/or I ever finish "Infinite Jest".